Sunday 17 November 2019

Itching to get back to the coalface after ankle injury blow

Big Interview: John Ryan

John Ryan scoring a try last season against Cardiff Blues. Photo: Sportsfile
John Ryan scoring a try last season against Cardiff Blues. Photo: Sportsfile

Winger Darren Sweetnam is the odd one out in the game of darts every lunchtime, but he still holds his own against the big props John Ryan, Brian Scott and Ciaran Parker.

The games room in the Munster Rugby High Performance Centre features a table tennis table and a PlayStation but this quartet head towards the dartboard instead.

"I used to watch the darts when I was younger. Then when I moved into my old house we had a dartboard. I used to live with a few of the lads, and Duncan Williams and myself used to play an awful lot of darts," says Ryan.

"It's just a bit of craic at lunchtime. There are other groups but it's all in close quarters."

Every Christmas the Munster tighthead is transfixed with the goings-on across at Alexandra Palace where the World Darts Championship takes place.

It coincides with a busy period in the rugby season and Ryan is hoping that he will have more game-time under his belt before the back-to-back Champions Cup fixtures come into focus. Indeed, there is a November series even closer on the horizon after Munster begin their European adventure and the PRO14 begins to take shape.

Unfortunately, the 30-year-old won't be involved in the coming weeks as he continues to rehab an ankle injury he picked up against Ospreys during Munster's Round 3 victory at Irish Independent Park.

Johann van Graan's side claimed a resounding 49-13 win against the Welsh that night but the Cork native hobbled off shortly after the hour.

"I just carried a ball and my leg got caught, a player fell on it. It was a standard tackle, I had my weight on my leg, and it got caught," says Ryan.

Damage

"I did ligament damage. I am just rehabbing at the moment. There is no set date. I was told it could be eight weeks but it's not going to be. I don't need surgery anyway. It's all good. I was doing well to rehab it.

"It's good I don't need to get the surgery. It's just the fact that it happened at the start of the season. It's not the business end but there are big games that I would be missing, Ulster and Leinster, and potentially games further afield. It's tough going but it's not a long-term thing so I can't complain.

"I just need to get back on the pitch and work on it with Munster before I think of anything else. I wouldn't be looking too far down the line about Ireland or anything like that.

"I'm doing a lot of work. I was only in the boot for three days. The boot was off the Monday after I met the specialist, three days after the injury. From there it was all about getting the range back in my ankle, moving it and getting the swelling down. I was icing it for hours every day for over a week.

"I'm doing a lot of upper-body work. I am still doing lower-body exercises and already back on my feet and moving.

"I wouldn't say being injured slows you down because you probably do more work when you are injured than not. So as a fella who hasn't really had a long-term injury it is an eye-opening experience to see that side of it.

"The likes of Jack O'Donoghue and Chris Farrell are at it for six, seven or even eight months. It's mad."

Munster's Champions Cup openers against Exeter Chiefs and Gloucester are out of the question; returning for one of the three PRO14 games in November looks more realistic.

Munster face off against Castres at Thomond Park on December 9 and again six days later at Stade Pierre-Fabre. Ryan's left ankle should be back to its best for those vital games.

It has been a tough start to 2018-19 after a wonderful summer where he played his part as Ireland claimed a historic tour victory over Australia Down Under.

"The summer was brilliant. I had a slight injury at the end of last season and just got back in time for the game against Leinster. I was lucky enough to get the nod for the summer," says Ryan. "I wasn't expecting much because I had been injured. To start the first game was great. I just kicked on from there and it went well.

"We won the series and we had a great trip down there. We got to see pretty cities and areas. Then we got a full five weeks off.

"I got to spend time with the family when I got home and got away with them for a while."

He went away to Spain for ten days before he refuelled and got ready to go for another huge campaign with his native province. Ryan has played 125 times for Munster since his debut in the 2011-12 season, and has also chalked up 15 caps for Ireland.

He made his first senior appearance in green against Canada in November 2016, and hopefully there will be many more to come. But it's all about returning to fitness now and taking things forward with Munster.

"In the off-season you get itchy feet, very keen to get back. I was delighted to get back," says Ryan.

"We got back for three days and all of a sudden we were down in Cork for a camp. It was a nice introduction to it rather than being all over the place. We actually got to ease into our pre-season.

"We got the work done. We had to filter into training as well, it wasn't all running - there was rugby involved. It's nice to do training with a ball and not just all running.

"It's nice to have Johann (van Graan) there for a calendar year as well, rather than having the upset of having to change around Christmas time last year. It's exciting. We have pretty good plans in place. I'm looking forward to putting them in play.

"Some of the results haven't exactly gone the way we wanted them to go recently. But there is a good mindset there and a very good squad of players. I am hopeful that we can put in a really good season."

Irish Independent

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